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According to the results of a study conducted in Denmark, use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) does not appear to reduce the risk of developing oral cancer. These results were published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Oral cancer refers to cancer that involves the mouth, lips, or tongue. A majority of cases of oral cancer are linked with tobacco use. High alcohol intake also increases the risk of oral cancer.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are used to reduce inflammation and pain. NSAIDS include drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Studies have suggested that NSAIDS may reduce the colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, and esophageal cancer, but results for oral cancer have been mixed.

To assess whether NSAID use reduces the risk of oral cancer, researchers conducted a study among residents of North Jutland County, Denmark. The study involved more than 400,000 individuals. Information about NSAID use was collected from pharmacy records. Roughly 170,000 of the study participants had filled at least two prescriptions for NSAIDS during the study period.

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  • Between 1991 and 2002, 185 cases of oral cancer were diagnosed among study participants.
  • Among NSAID users, oral cancer developed in six out of 100,000 people each year. Among non-NSAID users, oral cancer developed in five out of 100,000 people each year. These rates were not significantly different.
  • Among those with the greatest amount of NSAID use (10 or more prescriptions), there was still no evidence of protection against oral cancer.

Because smoking information was not available, the researchers collected information about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a proxy for smoking. After accounting for COPD, there was still no link between NSAID use and risk of oral cancer.

These results suggest that use of NSAIDS may not reduce the risk of developing oral cancer.

Reference: Friis S, Poulsen A, Pedersen L, Baron JA, Sørensen HT. Use of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Risk of Oral Cancer: A Cohort Study. British Journal of Cancer. 2006;95:363-365.